Should the Penguins, Senators explore a trade?
The Pittsburgh Penguins still have nine NHL defensemen and enough money to keep just seven at the NHL level. Ty Smith and Mark Friedman are with the WBS Penguins, while PO Joseph is working in the big leagues after three years in the AHL. After a summer of NHL trade speculation and at least one rejected deal, Penguins trade talk has died down despite a seven-game winless streak and no change in surplus stock.
The Penguins turned down a chance to trade the winger Jason Zucker to a Metro Division team because the other team also wanted a first-round pick included.
The quiet business chatter could change quickly.
Center Teddy Bleuger appears set to come off LTIR, which would tax the Penguins back to just 12 forwards on the roster. Salary constraints and injuries already forced the Penguins to play seven defensemen and just 11 forwards once this season. General manager Ron Hextall indicated there was a chance Blueger could be ready last weekend, but so far, Blueger remains on the long-term injury list retroactive to the season opener.
He can’t stay there forever.
NHL business partners?
Conversely, the Ottawa Senators have been on the hunt for a defenseman on the NHL trade market.
They are reportedly interested in Arizona Coyotes defenseman and a hot commodity on the NHL trade market, Jeff Chychrun. Like every other team, Ottawa has balked at the Coyotes’ asking price for the oft-injured blueliner.
The price includes a first-round pick and the best potential or talented (but cheap) players in the NHL.
Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion may have painted himself into a corner this season. After last season, Dorion told fans, “The rebuild is done. Now we’re entering a new zone.”
However, Ottawa currently has four defensemen 25 or younger on their blue line. Top-pairing lefty Thomas Chabot suffered a concussion Saturday when he was hit from behind by Philadelphia Flyers forward Travis Konecny.
Chabot is out for at least a week.
Ottawa is in last place in the Atlantic Division and needs a little more help.
The Ottawa Senators have another problem they have yet to deal with. Speedy LW Alex Formenton is an RFA and is still unsigned. The Senators have until 5 p.m. on Dec. 1 to sign him, or he can’t play this season.
Formenton, 23, scored 18 goals last season and 32 points (18-14-32) in 79 games. He also had four shorthanded goals as one of Ottawa’s leading penalty killers.
The Penguins PK remains mired near the bottom of the league.
PHN surveyed contacts about Formenton. An NHL team executive said Formenton has 25-goal potential if he slows down. The 6-foot-2, 165-pound winger won’t jam into a lineup, but he did have 101 hits and 44 walks last season. In addition, his speed is elite.
Formenton, the Senators’ 2017 second-round pick (47th overall), is expected to make between $1.5 million and $2 million on a new deal, but speculation is that Formenton wants a longer deal, higher paying deal.
Ottawa also has about $4 million in salary cap space, which could be more valuable than any player they can offer.
The Penguins have a glut of defense and experience, which could help the young Senators. Brian Dumoulin and Jeff Carter are team leaders, but there are replacements for both.
Dumoulin’s rough start to the 2022-23 NHL season recently led to coach Mike Sullivan shuffling his defense pairings, and Dumoulin landed on the third pairing. Marcus Pettersson has more than competently occupied Dumoulin’s first pairing alongside Kris Letang.
Also, Ottawa center Josh Norris is out long-term, with no timetable for a return this season after suffering a torn labrum in October. This also creates a need for a center, especially one who can lend a hand offensively and be a leader like Carter.
Dumoulin makes $4.1 million on a deal that expires after this season, meaning the Penguins would have to accept a salary in return or retain some of Dumoulin’s or Carter’s salary.
Carter, 37, is signed through next season at a cap hit of $3.125 million. He has eight points (2-6-8) in 12 games this season.
Rumors continue that Blueger could also be a trade chip. Former Montreal Canadiens pick Ryan Poehling has centered the fourth line in Blueger’s absence.
The Pittsburgh Penguins trade cabinet also includes backup defensemen working in the NHL. Both Smith and Friedman have NHL experience and value. However, Friedman cleared waivers before the season and has just two assists in 10 AHL games. Its value is versatility and physicality.
On paper, the Penguins and Senators could be a good matchup, and the numbers line up, too. It’s the kind of deal the Penguins need to pursue in order to activate Blueger and keep a backup forward on the NHL roster.
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